After raising a $6 million series B round, facial recognition company Emotient will open a private beta for a Google Glass app that detects users’ emotions in real time. Venture-capital firm Handbag led the financing, which closed in December but was announced Thursday, bringing the total amount raised to $8 million.
Emotient’s technology works by detecting subtle pattern changes in a person’s face. The software, which can be used to measure emotion in individuals and crowds, can tell if a person is feeling positive or negative overall and zero in on more specific emotions, such as joy, sadness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt. Though the company envisions many applications for its technology, it sees the most potential in retail. With Emotient’s Glass app, which will be available to select partners and customers, retail store workers can gauge the success of a campaign or promotion. To address privacy concerns, CEO Ken Denman said Emotient aggregates data that is anonymized. “We don’t store images,” he told Fast Company. “We basically take the data and aggregate it with other information we’ve taken from other individuals.”
The other space Emotient is targeting is health care. Cofounder Marian Bartlett said the technology can be used to help screen depression, a costly ailment for health care providers because it is often linked to other health problems, such as heart disease. Furthermore, she said patients who suffer from depression often have slower recovery times following surgery. “It is treatable if we can screen for it and detect it,” she said.
Judging by patent filings, Google and Apple are also interested in the ability to measure emotions by analyzing eye movements–primarily for the purpose of serving ads. In Google’s case, the search giant was interested in tracking users’ emotional responses to ads with a head-mounted display, charging advertisers on a “pay-per-gaze” basis. Intel, an Emotient customer and investor, has also added the startup’s libraries to an SDK that developers can use in their own applications.